Some 60 officers from the tactical Rapid Response Unit were in a meeting last week Wednesday when a cruise ship with 4,000 passengers on board made its first call of the season at Kingstown and one of its passengers was later robbed in the city.
An off duty/plainclothes police officer who went to the assistance of the visitors was reportedly assaulted by their alleged assailant, who has since been arrested and charged.
The crime occurred when Britannia was making its first call to St. Vincent this cruise season, which is expected to bring 300,000 cruise passengers to St. Vincent and the Grenadines — twice last year’s amount.
On that same day, a number of police officers were deployed to respond to a bomb threat at the corporate headquarters of telecommunications provider FLOW.
Asked his view of a meeting of RRU officers taking place on such a day, Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Ralph Gonsalves said on Monday that he was not aware of the meeting.
“But you don’t need — with great respect, we have 800 police officers. If you have — every day, practically you are going to have cruise ships in town. I agree that on Wednesday it was a special day with Britannia making their first visit. But it may well be that the management of the police force though that they had enough police presence on the ground to deal with whatever security issues without the RRU,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves took last week off from work as he nursed injuries he sustained when his official vehicle swerved to avoid a collision.
In his response to the question at the press conference, he repeated a point made in the press conference on another matter that “the RRU is not a routine response unit.
“If there was a matter of sufficient seriousness, I am sure that if they are in a meeting and they are called upon to respond, most or all of them would simply branch out and move and do what they have to do.”
Gonsalves said that as Minister of National Security, he happens to know that on any day in Kingstown, “we have plainclothes police and we also have uniformed police. And when the cruise ships come in, we have more of them deployed.
“Sometimes, you may see an individual and you don’t know he is a policeman. And that’s the way it is. I am heartened though that the police have charged someone… for the offences regarding that particular assault and robbery,” he said.
He said that as a consequence of the police officer who had given chase, they were able to identify the person who allegedly robbed the cruise passenger.
Gonsalves said that that crime is on his mind because of its brazenness and the sensitivity of the issue.
“Some people just don’t understand what it takes additional vessels like, for instance, Britannia to come here.
He said that there is an expected doubling of cruise passengers this year and even more next year, amidst the prospects of SVG becoming a transit port for a couple of the cruise ships.
“All these things could go up in smoke. These things are fragile. They are fragile things and we do all the negotiations and the expectation that we will behave quite properly.
“Of source, you could have these things happen everywhere but we have to know and the magistrates and the police and everybody involved have to know the importance of this and the role that tourism play in our country and how to respond to these matters. I don’t have to read and spell. I think this is a matter of real importance,” he said.
On Monday, Rose Place resident Jervany Baptiste appeared at the Serious Offence Court in Kingstown, charged with robbing an unknown man of an unknown address of one gold bangle at Bentick Square on Nov. 8, 2017.
He was also charged that on the same date and place, he resisted the arrest of Sergeant Keith Mc Burnette.
A third charge was that Baptiste assaulted the said police officer.
He was not required to plead to the indictable charges when he appeared before Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne-Matthias.
Baptiste was denied bail and will reappear in court on Monday for bail review.